SINGAPORE: Want to keep the weight you have lost off for good? Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have found that a calorie-restricted diet and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) could be a solution.
In a Science Daily article published on Nov 16, the researchers found that one of the major problems with calorie restriction is you lose muscle mass.
"Eighty per cent of people who lose weight by dieting gain all of it back in a four- to five-year period,” said Eric Plaisance, assistant professor of exercise science in the university’s School of Education.
"Being able to maintain weight loss is important to reducing the risk of diabetes, helping to improve blood pressure, and many other diseases and ailments associated with obesity,” he said.
The team’s research, which was published in American Journal of Physiology, was inspired by the reduced lowering of one’s metabolic rate when calorie intake was restricted, along with moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking. They decided to see if HIIT’s high intensity workouts could have an even greater effect.
HIIT involves exercising at a near-maximal intensity for a short period of time, followed by two to four minutes of active recovery. This could mean switching from running to walking on a treadmill, for example. Then, it is back to another round of near-maximal exercise and active recovery for four or five cycles.
In experiments on mice, Assoc Prof Plaisance’s team found that not only could HIIT preserve muscle mass, it also had a bigger impact on the way the body uses glucose for energy.
Moreover, people who perform HIIT seem to produce the same amount of weight loss doing 20 minutes of exercise as those who do 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, said the researchers.
"The number one reason that people tell us they do not exercise is due to a lack of time," said Assoc Prof Plaisance.
"High-intensity interval training takes about a third of the time as a continuous exercise training. If you are going to start a diet where you are restricting calories, these results could help prevent muscle mass and maintain energy expenditure."